A book is a friend for life. The words stay with you, even when you put the book down.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Words to come...

I need to write.

I do. But my heart still feels like stone.

After we lost my mom-in-law, I wrote. A lot. And I ended up with a children's book. It did indeed help me work through my grief. And it's a treasure of thoughts that my daughter will appreciate down the road.

I need to write. The thoughts and words fill up my head, tugging at my heart, and streaming down my cheek when I least expect.

I need to write. The story is there inside my heart. But I can't.

I will. Just not yet.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Be Strong and Courageous (Joshua 1:9)

a poem about Jerry, and about all of us


Like the smallest guy in class playing football with junior highers
twice his size and pulling his own weight

Like the little league baseball player with broken fingers never
quitting even when he could

Like the student who captained his academic team as an 8th grader
because he was the only one with prior experience

Like the avid reader who swore he was not a Slytherin, though he
was...and earned the right to Gryffindor House, at least in 8th
Grade History

Like the kid who found Jesus (and a church home) and never
stopped inviting his mom, his best friend, even his best friend’s
parents, until they came too

Like the young man on a mission experience using his Boy Scout
skills to benefit a whole village


Like the father torn with grief holding the young mother when she
no longer has the strength to stand alone

Like the class of 8th graders sitting together at a funeral even
though they’re not sure what to do, just supporting each other

Like the circle of friends sharing their favorite quote about Ohana
in front of a crowd, even though their family is “little and broken”

Like the best friend heading to school for the first time without the
guy he called brother, knowing it won’t be easy and going anyway

Like a youth group coming together for the first time after losing
the sunshine and finding a way to laugh again

Like the mother who finds the strength again and again ...

to put one foot in front of the other

to stand before hundreds of people and share a bright
memory even though her heart is shattered into millions of pieces

to join with the church family for worship even though her
memories are nearly close enough to touch

to encircle herself with the Ohana family of young people who will always call her “Mom” even though the center of the circle is unseen.

Yes, I’ve seen extraordinary strength and courage.

I can find the strength and courage to walk this valley, too.

On Grief

People deal with grief differently. I write.

It's been a rough month, frankly. There have been lots of mornings I didn't want to even get out of bed, didn't want to remember, didn't even want to think about what the day would look like without Jerry. And yet ... there is something incredibly healing in being able to say his name, in being able to write about the awesome young man he was, in being able to see pictures and videos of Jerry being Jerry. I think, perhaps, the hardest part personally was giving myself permission to grieve. You see, Jerry was not my son -- but he was so much a part of our lives, he certainly might as well have been! He's present in too many Facebook photos to count; he's in a third of my profile pics and cover photos; he's been at my house and in my youth group and under foot since forever (Kindergarten). I felt like he was mine. But he wasn't really. And it's been hard to give myself permission to grieve. What right do I have?! Well, he was mine. And this is how the grief process works for me.

I write.

So, I thought maybe I could gather some of this month's Facebook writings here together on this blog. Maybe it will make more sense as a whole. Maybe it will just make sense to me. Ah well.

April 20, 7:54 p.m.
Prayers please for a dear child!

April 20, 11:58 p.m.
Cyril kids, the pastors in town will be available at school tomorrow morning. Most of us, Rachyl and Jaxom included, plan to be there tomorrow. Shoulders to cry on and shoulders to hug. Missing our Sparklez for sure.

April 21, 6:46 a.m.
We all grieve differently. Me, I write. Woke this morning (if you can call this awake) with a gaping chasm in my heart. I may not have given birth to this boy, but he was my son nonetheless. Lots of moms feeling this way in Cyril today. And one more than the rest, more than we can say, we love you, Kristi.

April 23, 10:03 a.m.
Ohana; never forgotten. — with Rachyl Carlson. "Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind, or forgotten." -Lilo

April 25, 9:11 a.m.
Your presence and support much appreciated this morning as we try to say goodbye to Jerry Lewis. If you are available, join us at the gym at 10. — feeling heartbroken.

April 25, 1:49 p.m.
Blue sparkle roses for our Sparkles today. Class of 2019 Ohana. (Thanks, Kenzie Grace and Tina R Young.)

April 25, 8:18 a.m.
This morning, I'll be at worship with my church family, for the first time without Jerry. There will be smiles and tears, likely at the same time. I would greatly appreciate your prayers this morning.

(Our youth group, last Youth Sunday.)

April 25, 10:05 p.m.
It was good to sit in a circle of friends this evening. We need each other, for sure. Love you, Delbert, Christine, Kristi, Jason, Rachyl, Haley, Kenneth, Jaxom, Rilee, huge hugs to all!!!!

April 29, 7:19 a.m.
Woke exhausted this morning. Need strength just to make it to school today.
"I know I'm not strong enough to be everything that I'm supposed to be. Hands of Mercy, won't you cover me, Lord, right now I'm asking you to be strong enough."

April 29, 11:17 a.m.
Missing Jerry like crazy today. This pic is from last year's dance recital. How I miss this face! Each day, it seems, is full of more moments.
Like this pic: he HATED sitting through dance recital! But put up with it because that's what family does. It's hard for Rachyl and Jaxom right now without this guy they call brother.
I know she would love to have family and friends come support her Friday evening at Dance Recital. Ohana means everything.

May 11, 4:23 p.m.
A moment, frozen in time. The auditorium, full of antsy students and eager parents. The room suddenly hushed, breaths collectively held, all eyes turned toward the podium. Behind the microphone, her voice tremulous but strong, the young mother shared a gift with a class of 8th graders - her kids - minus one very important young man. You could have heard a pin drop in the silence of the moment. A hug for each precious soul, a sparkly cross in memory of her Sparklez, a connection few will understand. A moment, a stillness, a memory, but a reminder that Jerry Lewis will always be with us. I don't know how you measure strength, but here in Cyril, our strength is family. ‪#‎sparklesmonday‬

May 18, 8:07 a.m.
Dumbledore: Still?
Snape: Always.

So, how can I explain the depth of my grief? Words fail. I miss you, Jerry Eugene Rath Lewis. Always.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

How to Understand Your Teenager

How to Understand Your Teenager (or spending quality time with your teen reaps immense benefits):

One of the best things about Easter weekend is the time to spend with the family, obligation-free, stress-free, duty-free. No school means no work for the hubster and me, which also means the opportunity for family time!

The thing I enjoyed most, I think, is getting to spend time with my daughter in lots of different environments.

Dear daughter is a HUGE fan of K-pop. Or J-pop. (I lose track of the current terminology; however you look at it, this is the pop music of Japan and Korea.) She has several favorite bands she listens to, and over the long weekend, she "let" me watch a few of her favorite videos. To me, these groups resemble the Boy Bands of my youth (NSYNC, New Kids on the Block, Backstreet Boys) but with an edgy modern twist. My favorite song is "Hello" by SHINee. It is just fun seeing pop music from her eyes.

She and her best friend ordered matching tutus for Easter Sunday. This was not my choice; I was against this "fashion statement"; but they're so cute! Daughter wore her Easter dress for Palm Sunday (an olive branch of truce to sooth my nerves), and the girls wore their tutu outfits on Easter Sunday morning. They looked cute together, and I'm proud of the way my daughter cherishes her friendships. I do so enjoy watching them sit together, serve together, and worship together!!

Thursday was a day out of school for some of the art students, to attend the chalk art contest at the local university. Daughter and her sidekicks got to participate, and I was thrilled to get to go watch (and "supervise", as there was an academic interscholastic meet going on as well). I've always considered myself "crafty" rather than "artistic", so this was a bit outside my usual comfort zone. Despite the bad sunburn I received, the day was amazing! The kids' artwork was all spectacular, and they learned so much just by going and seeing other artists at work. Proud of my multifaceted teenager.

The biggest eye-opening moment for me was Saturday. It was the annual town Easter Extravaganza. Kids and parents gather at our local park to hunt Easter eggs. Really, it's more of a dash for eggs, as the eggs are scattered across the green in plain sight; kids are lined up on a "starting line" and set loose at noon. This year, there were door prizes, free hot dogs and snacks, playground fun, pics with the Easter Bunny, and NEW THIS YEAR: facepainting! Done by my creative daughter and her two friends she drafted. She volunteered for this monumental task after seeing one of the adults post on FaceBook looking for a facepainter. These three teenagers painted faces for nearly 100 kiddos on Saturday afternoon. All volunteer, no pay, and bringing their own supplies. What a great service to the community, and how thoughtful! (Here's a pic of daughter "practicing" on our pastor before the rush of children arrived.)

It's times like these long weekends that help me see my teenager in a new light. No, I certainly do not speak her language all of the time, and she is often an enigma to me (seriously, she takes after her two grandmothers more than me -- in so many ways!), but every day I can spend getting to know her is worth it.

Thought I'd post my #ootd pics for this past week. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Way Beyond Me

"I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength" ...
(but that doesn't mean I've been called to do EVERYTHING!)

One of the most difficult lessons I've been learning this year is about disentangling myself from the burdens that drag me down.

This process is intentionally my New Year's Resolutions. I've got to drop some baggage from this load that keeps me from moving!

I have a really bad habit of saying "yes" when asked to do things. Maybe it doesn't sound like that big of a deal. Trust me; it is.

If there is a function coming up for youth group, or if hubby comes up with another "great idea" for the youth group, or if someone in the church is thinking of an idea for the church family, I VOLUNTEER!

If there is an event going on at school, whether my kids are involved or not, or if someone happens to be absent or called away or otherwise "in need", I VOLUNTEER!

If a friend (or even slight acquaintance) calls needing something, I VOLUNTEER!

It's true. And the weight of all these promises drags me down! So I am learning to say no.

It's a slow process. Right now, I'm working my way through all the previous obligations that I've said "yes" to. The next month or so is full of these types of burdens. And it really is my own fault. These things would get done if I didn't do them. (And if they didn't get done, the world really would not come to an end.)

During this time of stress from over-volunteering, and learning to say no, I repeat Philippians 4:13. And I hum a little of TobyMac's "Way Beyond Me"...

Anything that I got the strength to do
In over my head keeps me countin' on You
I'm leaving the sweet spot, sure shot
Tradin' it all for the plans You got
Is it so crazy to believe

That You gave me the stars, put them out of my reach
Called me to waters a little too deep
Oh, I've never been so aware of my need
Yeah, you keep on making me see
It's way beyond me

Monday, March 30, 2015

4 Lessons from One Week of Fashion Effort

I made it through a whole week of "fashionable" outfits! I even wore makeup every day! (And I said "no" to one invitation, thus continuing to rid myself of burdensome obligations.)

What did I learn this week? Plenty!

1. Choosing outfits for the whole week ahead of time is NOT just for kids! One of the saving graces this week was having every outfit planned for the whole week. On Sunday evening, I hung up each outfit in the order I'd wear it during the week. This meant that even when I didn't feel like getting "dressed up", it was easy to do because it was right there in front of me! I highly recommend this for any adult professional! So what if you only did this when you were like 5?! It works!

2. Put on the matching outfit, even if you don't think you're going anywhere. This was Saturday's big lesson. I hadn't planned to go anywhere. Normally, I'd just lounge around all day (in lounge pants and oversize tee, of course). But there was the outfit, waiting for me. So I wore it anyway. And put on makeup. ("Why not?" right?) And it turned out I needed to run errands, so I looked great while out and about. Especially great since I ended up taking my pic for my driver's license!

3. Dressing professionally really does make your day better. Have you ever noticed that other people's attitudes rub off on you? Well, the same is true of your attitude about yourself. I noticed that I really did feel better about myself when I looked nicer in my own opinion. And similarly, other people started to take notice as well. I wish I'd kept track of how many people commented, "You look nice today." That just made my day! And I just felt better about myself knowing that I'd tried.

4. Fashion has its own language. Learn it. Two of the fashion-specific phrases I learned during my Pinterest research (and Facebook stalking of fashionable people) were: "#ootd" and "capsule wardrobe". These two phrases have figured significantly into my lexicon this week. Hopefully I'll be able to blog a bit more about how those two phrases have made such a difference to me.

Have I learned everything there is to know? NO WAY! I know there is so much I still need to figure out. But I'm getting there. Slowly but surely. Will I make some missteps? Probably! But I'll post them here and share what I learn from them.

As a professional librarian, I recommend using Pinterest for research! I now have a whole board dedicated to "fashion advice", which are great little posts that I can refer back to and reread as needed. Sometimes I need the reassurance!

As your friendly neighborhood librarian, I recommend reading Outside Beauty by Cynthia Kadohata. A great book about where beauty truly can be found, and what beautiful truly means.

And as your local church song leader, I recommend you repeat Philippians 4:13 whenever needed!

(And please enjoy these #ootd photos from my week!)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

#ootd Day 1

In my research (on Pinterest, Stitch Fix, and other fun internet places), I learned this fabulous hashtag: #ootd. "Outfit of the Day".

So, to show my progress in my Be a Professional journey, I thought I'd post my very first #ootd. This is Spring Day 1, from Sunday, March 23. I chose to wear my Little Black Dress (lbd in fashion lingo). Then I put the aqua shrug and coordinating earrings with it. I also wore my fabulous black heels.

To make this outfit possible, I obviously learned about needing a lbd. I also learned about this season's colors (aqua and coral, which I hope to share with you later). I also learned that I have a favorite neutral -- and that EVERYONE has a favorite neutral. Who knew?! My personal favorite neutral is grey, so I plan to add more to my wardrobe as time and money allows. It was hard finding the perfect lbd, and I don't think this one is quite "it", since it's a little shorter than I'd like. The work continues!

I did have so much fun shopping! My daughter's bff, sometimes called my "other daughter", went shopping with us, and she took some hilarious pics of me while I was "modeling" some of the outfits. If I get brave, I'll share those too.

When I was working on this post, a great song kept running through my head. It's called "Day 1" by Matthew West. So inspirational, and fitting for my new adventure:

"Day one of the rest of my life,
Day one of the best of my life,
I'm marching to the beat of a brand new drum,
Here I come,
The future has begun,
Day one."

Beginning something new? Need inspiration? I recommend listening to Matthew West's "Day 1" and reading "Ordinary: How to Turn the World Upside Down" by Tony Merida. Make a new beginning!

Friday, March 20, 2015

2 Lessons from Philippians 4:13

"I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." Philippians 4:13

In this busy school year, I've had to rely on this verse. A LOT. At the start of this new year, a thought struck me. I have learned two important lessons from this verse this year! One lesson I even made my "New Year's Resolution". Sometimes it just takes me awhile to hear God's voice (must be what Lent is for).

So... two lessons from Phil. 4:13.

Lesson One: Just because I can do all things doesn't mean I'm being told to do ALL things!

One of my biggest weaknesses is becoming overwhelmed and over-committed. I volunteer for projects, even though I'm really busy, just because I think I must. I tell myself, "This won't get done unless I do it!" Which of course is just silly, because if it needs getting done, someone will indeed take care of it! Case in point: I volunteered to direct Junior MidWinter Camp. Direct!! Now, my thought process on this should have told me that A) camp would happen with or without me and B) directing was too big a project for me and would stress me out. But I didn't listen. Yes, camp went well. But I was a basket case until it was over!

Lesson learned: don't volunteer for anything unless you REALLY want to. Now, I've still got too much on my plate, but I'm slowly learning that listening to God's voice is different than hearing that whiny self-talk in my head. So I'm tuning out the irritating over-volunteering voice, and tuning in to the Voice of Truth.

Lesson Two: Just because I haven't done something before doesn't mean God doesn't want me to try!

I am an adult, with an adult job as a library media specialist in a small school PreK-12 and an adult position in my church as song leader. Both of these roles call for a professional, adult appearance. But seriously, I just realized it over the past two weeks. Maybe it has to do with being an "adult age" finally (you'd think by 41 I'd have this figured out). Maybe it has to do with opening my eyes to the full impact of Philippians 4:13. I can do ALL things. I can, indeed, figure out how to dress like a professional -- including wearing makeup and matching my clothes and shopping for myself.

Yipe. I had to reread that just now.

What am I getting myself into? I've never worn much makeup. For awhile, when I was helping sell Avon with my mom-in-law, I bought makeup and wore it (though not every day). But I don't think I was very good at it. At the beginning of this school year, I bought makeup and wore it until about October. My reasoning: no one even noticed when I wore it or not, so why bother. My new realization: people do notice, they're just too polite to say anything. And it shouldn't be about that, anyway; it's about a professional image.

The same is certainly true, if not more so, for my wardrobe. I have never ever been good at shopping. I have never been good at putting clothes together. However, I didn't really think anyone noticed. Until a Sunday morning about two weeks ago. One of the older ladies of the congregation pulled me aside before worship started to ask me if I knew I didn't match. Yikes! I guess I didn't really pay attention, but my daughter just shook her head. She knew. And it's not my daughter's job to make sure I match every day or to take me shopping. (I miss my mom-in-law so much -- she was so GOOD at fashion and makeup!)

But I am an adult. I am a professional. I should be able to research and make notes to figure out this makeup and fashion thing. So that's what I've been doing. Pinterest has been especially helpful. As well as Stitch Fix! And so: Tomorrow, I'm going on my first fashion shopping trip, using my research guidelines and prayerful resolve.

"I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."

(proof I can dress nicely and put on makeup!)

How about a book recommendation: read the Seraphina duo (Seraphina and Shadow Scale). Great for learning about your personal strengths and stepping out to be the person you were meant to be!